Back in 1887, on weekdays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., you could visit on the upper floor of the ‘Round House’ on Smith Street and read “four daily papers and the principal magazines”—after your stagecoach made its scheduled stop at its doors.
The library was advertised as “free to all” and was made possible through an endowment of $10,000 and a collection of 5,000 books from Scribner Brothers—a gift from local philanthropist Cortlandt de Peyster Field of New York City and Peekskill.
His father, Benjamin, was one of the founders and president of the New York Free Circulating Library (later the New York Public Library) and Field made the donation to benefit the cultural life of village residents, many who visited the library often, according to The Field Library's current director, Sybil Canaan.
One-hundred-and twenty-five years later, The Field Library is one of the oldest public libraries in the county, and serves the approximately 23,500 residents of the City of Peekskill and 35,000 Town of Cortlandt residents.
Canaan said that what makes the Field library so unique is its place in the community as a resource for local history, along with a knowledgeable staff who assist with the needs of the residents of this ever-evolving city.
“Peekskill continues to change, re-invent and re-imagine itself,” Canaan said. “It is a very vibrant place with a rich history and religious life, and the library has always been here to help people explore it.”
With the extensive records that the library maintains, along with artifacts, genealogical data and a large obituary collection, locals often come in with questions about the histories of their homes and streets, she added.
This local institution is marking its century-and-a-quarter anniversary with events throughout the year—including an unusual gallery display of rare maps, documents and objects drawn from the library’s Local History Collection, the Colin T. Naylor, Jr. Archives—that will be on display in May and June. The public is invited for a special reception and refreshments in the gallery on Saturday afternoon, May 19, from 1-4 p.m.
For younger patrons, there was a Poetry Slam in early May, and on Sunday, May 20 at 2 p.m., the library will hold the “125th Peekskill Village Spelling Bee” that will be judged by WHUD Radio personality Kacey Morabito.
And in September, there will be a gala fundraiser at, where the library is inviting the whole community to come celebrate on the lawn of the estate. This year, several historic businesses in Peekskill will receive the Chester A. Smith Award, which is named after a former library board president and honors those who serve the community well.
The library’s previous locations included the former Second Presbyterian Church and in 1944, Chester A. Smith, Library Board President whose support of the library spanned more than fifty years, was instrumental in receiving the gift of the 1875 Herrick House on Union Avenue, which was bequeathed to the library for purposes of operating the Memorial Museum.
Later in 1976, the Friends of the Peekskill Museum took over the independent organization and administration of the Museum, with the library moving to new quarters at the Michael J. DiBart Neighborhood Center in 1978, where it remains today.
The Field Library proudly holds a collection of 80,000 books, over 300 different magazine and newspaper titles, and a wide variety of DVD’s, videos, audiocassettes, and compact discs.
“We are a neighborhood place, a serious library for all-comers, young and old,” Director Canaan said. “We are pro-active about serving the needs of the community—be it providing e-books to patrons, items in Spanish or being a safe haven for young moms to come with their kids, we are here for you.”